Today’s LA Times health section includes an article about medical blogging, featuring several members of the Medgadget team:
The family pictures on the desk. The diplomas on the wall. A few magazine subscriptions, perhaps, or some sailing, tennis or golf memorabilia scattered around the office. In the past, a curious patient could only turn to these bits of evidence to try to know more about the individual behind the medical degrees, the white coat and the carefully scripted bedside manner.
The temptation is understandable. After all, when someone holds your life in his or her hands, it would be nice to know a bit more about what makes them tick. But today, anyone with an Internet connection can have access to the fevered, funny, angry and very human thoughts of these men and women who help us navigate the perilous shoals between illness and health. The vehicle? The doctor’s blog. A blog is the name used to describe a weblog, the constantly updated platform for the idiosyncratic and highly personal musings (or rantings) of anyone who wants to set one up in cyberspace.
“It’s a direct line to see what doctors think that you won’t pick up in the office or from television shows,” says Michael Ostrovsky, a cardiac anesthesiologist in Daly City, Calif., who blogs as medgadget. [Don’t get too excited: Dr.O has not been transformed into a medgadget cyborg yet. –ed.]
He says doctors often want an outlet for discussing patient issues and the social and political problems they face on the job, or to gripe about HMOs or Medicare reimbursement rates. “They can vent their frustrations through their websites and learn from other doctors.”
Note to new readers: this passage may have led you to infer Medgadget.com provides keen insight into the doctor’s perspective on health care. The truth is, we just jot down snarky commentary on cool new gizmos. Sure, on rare occasions, we’ve been known to recite poetry or advocate for open scientific access, but mostly we save the passion for the medgadgets.
And then there is some more:
The rising interest in blogs is being driven by more than the literary and clipping, or linking, services. Other physicians believe blogs have the potential to change how medical research gets to the public. “Online access to articles is restricted to subscribers,” Ostrovsky says. “That is not the way to disseminate science. Science needs to be delivered to as wide an audience as possible; it needs to be peerreviewed. The Internet can offer a perfect medium to do this.”
Keeping up with scientific developments becomes impossible for many doctors. Perhaps in the future, Ostrovsky suggests, blogs will be “a peer review platform for a lot of scientific articles.”
But will they create a more trusting doctor-patient relationship? Or perhaps spawn the next Oliver Sacks?
No one can say for sure. For all their dissatisfaction with medicine today, blogs offer doctors a hopeful place to feel unconstrained about their profession, to feel a bracing sense of possibility. As Dr. Charles put it in his first posting: “You almost feel as if you are putting a message in the bottle across the sea, across the world. And you wonder, is this a narcissistic shout or the first living synapse?”
Read: ‘The doctor is logged in’…